3 Tips for Coping with News-Related Stress and Trauma

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

In our connected world, it can seem as if news of natural disasters, violence and suffering bombards us from every direction. We’re more connected to a planet’s worth of news than we ever have been before. Combine that with dealing with the trauma of breast cancer as a young adult, and the effect can be overwhelming. If you’ve been feeling overcome by our 24/7 news cycle, know that news-related stress is a serious issue and you’re not alone.

Hearing or watching the news can cause its own form of trauma
The US Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD reports that too much trauma-related news can have a negative impact on individuals. This could range from coverage of an event like political news to natural disasters, a multitude of which we have been a witness these past couple of months.

It’s even possible to develop a sense of hypervigilance due to the vicarious stress symptoms of exposure to trauma on the news. In a report to CNN about when it is okay to step away, a counselor at the Anxiety and Stress Management Institute suggested that individuals pay attention to when the news is becoming too much.

In other words, self-regulation about media intake is healthy and good. This article gives permission. Take it!

You may be thinking, “That sounds great…But how?” We get it; it can be hard to avoid the news. Here are three tips for coping when the news becomes upsetting.

Put down the remote!
Seriously: turn off, tune out and unplug. Limit the amount of media coverage you observe. Do something else, something that is nourishing and nurturing to your psyche like reading a good book.

Talk it out
Surround yourself with those with whom you feel safe and comfortable. Talk with other young survivors who may mutually benefit from being able to talk about it. Setting boundaries and receiving support are important in many aspects of our lives, and national, international and natural disasters are no exception.

Remember the importance of restful sleep
The National Sleep Institute (NSI) suggests that when we find ourselves ruminating on disturbing thoughts, our bodies tense and our hearts race. Relaxation exercises and creating healthy bedtime routines can assist in taking ourselves down a notch.

The NSI further reports that 90% of Americans report using a handheld device in the hour before bedtime. The blue light from these devices interrupts our body’s normal sleep process, so choosing to stop looking at our phones or tablets two hours before deciding to sleep is recommended. This would also organically mean two less hours of media coverage!

Taking a step back from the barrage of media coverage will allow for time needed to recover and restabilize in between events. The National Institute of Mental Health crafted guidelines for mass mental health trauma care. They are:

  • A sense of safety

  • Calm

  • A sense of being able to solve problems for oneself or as part of a group (such as family or any school, religious or community group that the person can identify with)

  • Connectedness to social support

  • Hope

The bottom line

In a time that feels chaotic, let these principles serve as a guide. How can you cultivate these in your life? Where and with whom do you feel safe? What brings your calm?

Our former intern, Amanda Chen, recapped an important conversation with Julie Larson about ‘coping with stress and anxiety after a diagnosis.’ Larson provides an important reminder that sometimes you will not recognize a potential trigger until it happens. As you begin to tune in with yourself, you will become more aware of when you need to take a break.

Let us know your tips for unplugging and cultivating feelings of calm of safety in your life in the comments.

Take care of yourself. You deserve it!

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